I was commissioned to score the first of these films for the National Park Service in 2007. Actually the assignment was given to me when a dear colleague, Chris Hewitt, became too ill to deliver the score. I have always loved the National Parks, and have spent a good deal of time in them with my family, so it was with no shortage of enthusiasm or inspiration that I accepted the task. The first film was for St. Croix Scenic National Riverway. I worked closely with Chris Wheeler and Sonny Hutchison of Great Divide Pictures to create a score that was both a pleasure to do and a piece of work carefully tailored to support the dramatic contours of the film. When you spend most of your waking hours for a few weeks looking at footage this beautiful, you can't help but feel something profound about nature and our dance with it. It was altogether a joyful experience.
The second film, "Gulf Islands National Seashore," is about the barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi that protect much of our coastline. The locale was right in the middle of where I was raised, the Gulf Coast. This area had not yet been designated a park when I left the area in 1976 to relocate to Denver, and Dauphin Island - just south of Mobile - was not included, presumably because it had been thoroughly commercialized quite early. The park service's Gail Bishop took me on a tour of the Florida side of the park, and it was here that I first saw how incredible a pristine, virgin beach can be. It was as beautiful as any other natural wonder I had ever seen. Every other beach I've ever been on has been crowded with restaurants, bars, condos and the like, and this was just the opposite. It was an extremely peaceful moment . . . at least until we got to the fort and learned about the battles that had taken place there. But that gave balance to the story and the score.
These projects change you, as do most of the things I work on. Before starting on the Gulf Islands film I had just taken an amazing orchestration workshop with Scott Smalley (Danny Elfman's orchestrator, among other things) in Los Angeles and was eager to try out some new techniques, which had me leaning a lot towards film composers Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry as influences. It took a lot of writing and some re-writing to bring in a score that satisfied myself and the producers, but in the end the effort felt successful and worthwhile.
I began my career in a time when I could expect to stand in front of an orchestra every couple of weeks to conduct whatever new thing I'd written for the client of the moment. Sadly, those times are passed and most of us who compose for a living do so knowing that most of our work will be created almost entirely within a computer. The results range from disappointing to really quite good, but the social nature of what we do has changed drastically. I buck the trend whenever possible. It's much nicer to grab lunch with your friends from the studio than with a computer, and working with the really gifted, talented people I try to include in my projects is incredibly satisfying.
I hope you'll enjoy this music as much as I enjoyed creating it. Soundtracks are not everyone's cup of tea, but I've always been a fan of them and am often surprised by how many people are similarly inclined. So sit down with a nice beverage and imagine yourself in a place full of natural wonder and let this music wash over you. It may be just what the doctor ordered.